The origins of juniper-flavored spirits can be traced back to Benedictine monks in 11th-century Italy – and then to 16th-century Dutch medicine distillers, who brewed a pungent, fermented malt-wine spirit called genever that was flavored with botanicals including juniper to mask its harsh flavor.
Gin more or less as we know it today first gained widespread popularity in the U.K. in the late 17th century when the Dutch-born William of Orange became king of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the fashionable Dutch drink became popular with his new subjects. William imposed laws that included heavy duties on imported French spirits combined with tax breaks for local spirit production, which led to a massive surge in distilling in England. Known as the “gin craze,” this period was marked by the opening of hundreds of gin shops, where a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer. Its ready availability became a huge social problem, leading to alcoholism, increased crime, and ill health, especially among the poor.
Although Dutch-style genever still exists and remains popular in its homeland, it is the English version that dominates the gin market worldwide. Whereas genever’s main notes come from the malted grains (some connoisseurs compare it to whiskey), English gin is characterized by its heavy notes of juniper – which must be added during the distillation process, rather than as a flavoring agent after distillation. Other botanicals commonly used in gin distillation include licorice, angelica, citrus peel, and caraway but every distiller has its own recipe.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 20 best gins for 2022 by reviewing the results of the 2021 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a weeks-long multi-part event covering a wide range of spirits, judged by panels including spirits writers, bartenders, consultants, and other experts in the field.
Our list includes all the gins rated between 93 and 98 points (the highest score given) in the 2021 tasting. Within each scoring group, gins were ranked according to price, with the less expensive ones placing higher. There was one tie, noted as such. Prices were suggested retail prices for a 750 ml bottle (except where otherwise noted) as of mid-2021, and may have changed since the judging and may vary from state to state and in some cases from store to store. (If you’re more a vodka than a gin person, see the 25 best vodkas for 2022.)
Click here to see the 20 best-tasting gins for 2022
Of the 20 best gins for 2022, ten are from the U.K., which has been experiencing a gin renaissance in the last few years. London alone is home to two dozen gin distillers, and the number of distilleries producing gin has increased from 190 to 820 between 2015 and 2022. Two of the top three gins are from the best-selling brand Tanqueray, which originated in London but is now distilled in Scotland. (Its parent company, Diageo, is among the world’s 15 most valuable alcohol companies.)
Japan, Sweden, and the United States each have two gins on the list, with others hailing from Mexico, India, and New Zealand. Some modern gin distillers have moved away from juniper-forward flavors and taken liberties to incorporate heavier floral and citrus notes, as well as local botanicals. The Mexican offering on the list, Gracias a Dios, utilizes 32 botanicals grown in Mexico, while Roku from Japan is crafted with six Japanese botanicals. Two call out added flavorings – wildflowers and damson plums.
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